Implementing change usually requires setting measurable goals for what the project will achieve. And someone needs to be accountable for attaining those results.
However, people are often hesitant to commit to achieving results. It’s much more comfortable to commit to completing activities, which they have more control over. Unfortunately, checking the boxes on activities doesn’t guarantee that you’ll achieve the desired result.
One of the reasons people avoid committing to achieving results is a lack of clarity about what will happen if they don’t achieve it. In the absence of clarity, they assume the worst, or at least believe that not achieving the goal will be considered failure.
You can gain commitment by facilitating a conversation about the consequences of achieving or not achieving the goals. One set of consequences are the natural result of the change either happening or not. The other are the consequences that are established by people.
|If we do||If we don’t|
|Natural||What are the expected results if we achieve our objectives?||What are the implications if we don’t achieve our objectives?|
|Established||What accolades will we receive if we achieve our objectives?||What will be the consequence if we don’t achieve our objectives?|
It’s the bottom right-hand quadrant that causes people to avoid commitment to results, because it’s often undefined. To fill in the gap, some may look to the history of the organization to see what happened to others who failed. Or they just assume that committing to results and failing to achieve them must be career-limiting.
What if we could define the “consequences if we don’t” to be supportive instead of punitive? Clarify that the response to missed targets will be:
- learning and not blame
- collaboration and not abandonment
- additional support and not shuttering the project.
When people trust that everyone will do their part to ensure the success of the project, and that they’ll have the support they need when the going gets tough, they will feel more comfortable committing to results.